April 1, 2012

Dare to Dream

I remember that Saturday from five years ago so well, it was after ballet class in the old Alexander Theatre.. My teacher Jill was walking her bike alongside me because it was nice to talk at the same time. I told her that I would never ever quit dance again. I had been back in ballet for about half a year, and Jill had just informed me that I was doing well enough to re-join the intermediate-advanced level. I was already happy that I had rediscovered pliés and ronde de jambes and sauts, everything else was the cherry and hot chocolate sauce on top of a very large sundae. I told her how good it was to be in class again, and that I didn't feel like I would have to keep up with the younger crowd anymore. She laughed, and said something about how she no longer looked into the mirror herself. Silly really, since Jill was fit and fab at fifty still. Anyhow, she said she was happy to have me back. It was a sunny day, early spring yet.

Life rarely goes as planned. That same year, late in summer, Jill died a sudden and untimely death. I had seen her the evening before, she was teaching a yoga class and appeared to be in the best shape of her life. Three days later I attended her funeral among hundreds of grievers. I was devastated - Jill had been my first ballet teacher and a huge influence in my early twenties. Five years later, I still miss her at times. I wish I could show her that I have continued to dance to this day, that I never quit, never gave up again. I wish she could see that the out-of-shape duckling from then has almost turned into a swan (of sorts). I wish I could tell her that I dare to dream again.

Today I watched Finnish ballerina and étoile Minna Tervamäki dance her farewell performance in La Bayadère. Five years ago she honoured the memory of my teacher Jill by dancing the Dying Swan at her memorial. It was heart-breakingly beautiful. Today Minna danced the part of Nikiya, for one last time. As usual, she was the epitome of elegance, assured and soulful. The standing ovation that followed a testament to her wonderful career. After the curtain rose for maybe the fifth time, Minna stood alone on the stage, head bowed to her thankful audience who did not want to let her go with anything less. I cannot imagine what was going through her mind right then, how she felt at that moment. Gratitude, bliss, loss, love, happiness? But I do know this: she is one who dared to dream.

In class you can always try, fail, try and get up again - but there is a limit to how long you can hold back your dreams to wait for another day. Dream of turning triples? Don't be scared of turning doubles and falling on the floor. Dream of dancing on pointe? Put in the work, and then you get to put on those shoes. Dream of dancing on stage? Then get ready to be the best dancer you can be, even if you're in back row and third from the left. Dream a little, or dream big - but be happy with whatever you can get.

Since that Saturday of March 2007, a lot has changed. I have changed. For one, I can keep up with students half my age. Though I'm kind of dismayed that any girl half my age is no longer in kindergarten or even high-school! Seriously, is everyone else getting younger or is it just me getting older? Never mind, what counts is that I'm not done yet! I can still get stronger, learn new steps, turn triples and present myself. And hello - pointe shoes! That used to be a dream I had buried long ago. But this spring I might, possibly, even get to dance on stage - on pointe! Darlings, sometimes the dreams you dare to dream really do come true.


  1. This was sad but yet the most beautiful post you've ever written.Thank you for your inspiring post!

    My first live ballet performance that I saw, was Minna Tervamäki's Dying Swan. I was 12, maybe just turned 13. She was so beautiful and elegant and I remember how she really looked like she had wings instead of arms. She was really nice and gave me her autograph, and asked me to keep on dancing ballet. Well, unfortunately living in a little town made that impossible, and next year there weren't any classes due to too few attendants.

    So years went by and my dream to dance ballet again fade, until I moved to study in a bigger city. My friend told me she is going to attend a dance class and showed me dance school's advertisement. There it was - loads of ballet classes for adults! I went there and instantly felt like being home again. Even though I won't ever dance like my huge idol Minna Tervamäki, my dream came true and I have an opportunity to do what I love most -dance ballet.

    1. Thank you, Minttu! Once in a while it's nice to write pieces like this. Of course not every post can be beautiful and sad, I just happened to be in the right mood.. Something about Minna Tervamäki's farwell performance inspired me! By the way, did you know that Minna is known as "Minttu" among her friends and colleagues? :)

      What wonderful luck to have seen Minttu dance the Dying Swan - and as your first live experience! It's a shame there were no opportunities for you to keep on dancing back then. But yay for those adult classes!

      I'm happy for you that you got to dance ballet after all :)

  2. made me tear up a bit, so beautifully written! x

  3. Made me tear up, and it made me smile too! Beautiful :)

  4. Beautiful post, Johanna!

  5. Thank you, Alina & Lalatina and Stephanie!

    I did not mean for anyone to tear up, at least not on purpose.. But I'm glad it made you smile too! :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...